The Identity Does Not Destroy Real Differences Between Different Kinds of LifeOctober 7, 2018
This somewhat tedious discussion was necessary in order to vindicate the real unity of the religious life against the view that it is a falsely conceived juxtaposition of heterogeneous functions with no unity and no interconnexion.
There is, we have argued, only one kind of activity ; namely, that which is at the same time thought and will, knowledge and action ; and if religion is the name of this activity, then all true life is religion. We cannot distinguish three kinds of life, the thinking life, the active life, and the religious life that unites the two.
So far as anybody thinks, he wills to think, and is so far already in possession of the complete or religious life ; and the same is true of any one who wills.
It may be desirable to remark at this point that to say there is only one possible complete life, and that the religious, does not in the least abolish the differences between different people’s abilities and ideals, or set up one out of a number of lives as the one to which all ought to conform.
In a sense, it is to do the very opposite of this ; for we have pointed out that whatever life is really livable, whatever is a life at all, is already for that very reason religious in its degree ; and that no one type of life has any right to claim for itself the title of religious at the expense of any other.
In one sense we do certainly make a restriction in the variety of ideals ; not in the number of possible lives, but in the ways in which such lives may be classified. While fully agreeing that there is a difference between the work of a statesman and that of a philosopher, for instance, we should not admit that this difference is of such a kind that the former can be correctly described as a man of action and the latter as a man of thought.
And in the same way, we should not wish to deny the difference between a priest and a layman ; but we should deny that the life of the one was religious and the life of the other secular. As every life includes, and indeed is, both thought and action, so every life is essentially religious ; and the secular life, if that means a life negatively defined by the mere absence of religion, does not exist at all. If, however, the “ secular ” life is defined positively as consisting of interests from which priests are excluded, or of interests lying altogether outside the sphere of religion, we shall reply that no legitimate interest is foreign to all religious life ; and that the question what is and what is not lawful for a priest, though a perfectly legitimate question, cannot be decided by an appeal to the conception of religion.
Every man has his own duties, and every class of men has duties proper to itself as a class ; but just as the “man of action ” is not freed from the obligation to truth, nor the “man of contemplation ” from the obligation to morality, so the layman is as much bound as the priest by the ideals of the religion which in some form or other he cannot help professing.